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Like so many Roy Rogers films, this one is abbreviated to fit the TV
time slot. Originally it ran 58 minutes but someone lopped 5 minutes
off the print. Considering that his films usually had quite a few
songs, I assume one or two of them were removed to make the running
time only 53 minutes.
"Southward Ho" is a monumental film in that it paired Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes for the first time--something Republic Studio would end up doing many, many more times. Fortunately, it's also a pretty good film.
When the film begins, Roy and Gabby are in the Confederate Army and trying to steal food. However, Gabby is able to not only get the food but capture the Union Colonel--though, inexplicably, he just lets the guy go free. He just wanted the food. Yes, this made no sense whatsoever--he SHOULD have shot the man or taken him prisoner.
Time passes. The war is now complete and Gabby has just been willed half interest in a ranch in Texas. And, guess who his new partner will be--the Colonel! However, this isn't the least of the problems, as the Colonel has been placed in charge of the Reconstruction in Texas but he doesn't realize the troops who have come to assist him are all deserters and cut-throats. His goal is to be a reasonable trustee of the country--theirs is to bleed everyone dry of everything they own! How does all this work out--see the film yourself! While often Rogers films promoted the 'Reconstruction myth' that the Yankees were all evil and the Southerners all victims, this one takes a novel new approach. This in addition to some dandy action and plot make this a decent film--one even non-fans can enjoy. Not among Rogers' best but certainly a decent outing for the cowboy.
Southward Ho begins with Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes of the Confederate
Army in the last days of the Civil War robbing a Union Army Colonel
played by Wade Boteler of a roast chicken and his pants for good
measure. Hayes took a particular delight in lifting the latter. But
then news of Appomattox comes and they have to go back to Texas and
Gabby's ranch of which Roy is asked to be foreman.
But when they arrive back in Texas who do they find has bought a half interest in the ranch. You guessed it, none other than Boteler who has arrived with his pretty daughter Lynne Roberts.
Boteler is appointed military governor of the district and troops arrive to back up his rule. But Arthur Loft and his men aren't really troops, they're all cashiered from the army and just looking to grab before the real carpetbag rule gets going. Roy and Lynne counsel moderation, but neither the ranchers or Boteler are in a listening mood.
The version of Southward Ho I saw was an edited one and some crucial elements of the story were left out. Still this is not a bad Roy Rogers western. Hopefully though I doubt it we'll get a director's cut on this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roy Rogers' career as a leading man had been going for less than two
years when he teamed with his soon-to-be friend and mentor George
"Gabby" Hayes. The pairing was perfect. Roy summed up all that had come
before him in the way of cowboy stars. Gabby would set the high mark
for what a sidekick should be, mostly because of his superb abilities
as an actor.
The story begins with Roy and Gabby serving in the Confederate army as they encounter a small group of Union troops under the leadership of Colonel Denbigh, played by Wade Boteler. Gabby and Colonel Denbigh exchange words before Gabby and Roy return to their own camp. Back at camp Gabby tells Roy about his inheritance of half a cattle ranch in Texas, and the two make plans for their new life as ranchers after the war. Upon arriving in Texas Gabby soon finds out that the person who owns the other half of his ranch is none other than the Union colonel with whom he had eluded during the war is his partner. The colonel also happens to have a beautiful daughter named Ellen, played by Mary Hart. As Gabby tangles with the colonel, Roy pursues Ellen.
The bad guys are Yankees! Or, at least they appear to be Yankees. Colonel Denbigh has been put in charge of restoring order during the era known as Reconstruction. Having been instructed that a detail of soldiers would arrive to help enforce laws and aid in tax collection, he does not suspect that the soldiers that arrive are all crooked men who were thrown out of the Army. As the outlaw gang operates under the guise of enforcing the law, Roy must find a way to help the ranchers that are being robbed and defeat the crooks. Of course he does it with great charm and lots of excitement.
Southward Ho is an excellent movie from the Roy Rogers series of western movies. The movie does not rely on too much singing and romance. Instead it moves along nicely with the plot getting thicker and the action getting better. This one is definitely a must-see!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This Roy Rogers/Gabby Hayes entry has a rather peculiar screenplay by Gerald Geraghty and Jack Natteford, based on an original screen story by John Rathmell. (These writing credits are taken directly from the movie itself. In most reference sources, including IMDb, they are listed differently. This is not to say that IMDb is wrong. It could be argued that mistakes that occur in credit titles are simply too expensive to correct). And as we might expect from quickie director, Joseph Kane, the script is too broadly played by the cast (especially Gabby Hayes) and rather too hastily photographed by Jack Marta, whose work here is uncharacteristically flat. The 54 minutes DVD running time is also rather short on musical numbers, but it should be noted that this was the case right from the start. The theatrical print ran only 58 minutes and that would translate to only 56 minutes at DVD speed. This was Gabby's first movie as Roy's sidekick and the fact that he was billed second upset Republic's dream billing of "Rogers and Hart". Lynne Roberts, under her "Mary Hart" moniker is now billed third! In my opinion, she is rather too demure a heroine anyway! This movie certainly has its moments of excitement and the unfamiliar plot maintains sufficient interest in its rather odd turns of events (which I won't spoil for you here), despite the lumbering efforts of am amateurish support cast. As a rule, Rogers' vehicles increased in both slickness and thrills as his star status grew. This particular movie pales alongside the movies turned out by virtually the same crew just a few years later. Even the action highlights here are much tamer and much less exciting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roy and Gabby open the picture as Confederate soldiers, having some fun
while tormenting a Union Colonel by stealing his barbecue chicken and
running off with his trousers. With the end of the War, both men head
back to Texas, where Gabby intends to claim his half share of a cattle
ranch. Westerns of the era often relied on mathematically impossible
odds to tell their story, and so it is here when Gabby and Roy show up
in Texas, and their unknown partner turns out to be the same Colonel
Denbigh (Wade Boteler) they outwitted back in Virginia. Fortunately,
Denbigh has a pretty daughter (Lynne Roberts as Mary Hart) to take the
viewer's mind off of this improbable coincidence.
It turns out that Colonel Denbigh is actually noble in his pursuit of Southern Reconstruction. However he's blindsided by ex-soldiers wearing Union uniforms who pursue tax collection under the law to confiscate property from the local ranchers. Before the good guys get to set things straight, Gabby gets involved in a gunfight showdown with Denbigh. No one would have gotten hurt, as Roy rigged both mens' firearms with blanks, but one of outlaw Jeffries' (Arthur Loft) men bushwhacks the Colonel, putting even more pressure on Roy to nail the bad guys.
Coming in at just under an hour, this is a fine early Roy Rogers effort, with a few campfire songs in which Roy takes the lead. He serenades Ellen with one early in the picture, and it paid off by the finale as Roy convinces his new fiancé to stick around instead of heading back East. Ornery Gabby gets in a lick about those 'durn women', but it's all in good stride.
Roy had a number of pictures using the Civil War as a backdrop, and would find himself in roles on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. In 1940's "Young Bill Hickok", he portrays the legendary Westerner taking side with the Union, while trying to balance a precarious relationship with a Southern belle.
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